While internet news sources today have reported that Microsoft is readying to launch its next generation Xbox hardware in America and Europe in the fourth quarter of this year, Eurogamer has learnt that the specific timing for the machine's roll-out is late October or early November, and merely weeks after the US launch. The exact date is yet to be solidified.
Speaking under conditions of strict anonymity, senior American and British development, publishing and retail sources have confirmed the launch window in the past weeks.
It is also now widely known among British sources that Microsoft UK is currently in the planning stages of a spectacular and unprecedented launch event in central London for the winter release.
While it has been accepted for some time that Xbox 2, currently codenamed Xenon, would be released in America before the end of the year, the news of a late October/early November launch in both the UK and Europe will send shockwaves through the industry and gaming community on this side of the Atlantic.
Many have expressed concern that Microsoft is forcing the next generation of console hardware too early, and that the current generation still has much to achieve. The most famous example of this came from then Nintendo of Europe MD David Gosen speaking at an ELSPA summit in London last October, where he lambasted Microsoft for pushing a next generation machine to market in 2005, and even went so far as to question Microsoft's motivation as profit.
"In every cycle, some manufacturer not profiting from the current cycle is eager to kick-start the next one," he said at the time.
EA recently confirmed that next generation Xbox titles would ship alongside current generation offerings later this year, although the certainty of a European release this side of 2006 has been muted: until now.
Microsoft has already publicly snubbed the suggestion of Xbox 2 being shown for the first time at GDC in March, and it now seems obvious that E3 will see the grand unveiling of the machine.
A Microsoft spokesman characteristically swatted away any next gen talk: "Microsoft has not made any announcements regarding the next generation. We are currently very focused on further building the success of the Xbox console today and are not speculating on timing for a future version."
However, it must be noted that with the current lack of Xbox console stock still proving to be a huge problem for retailers and the future Xbox first party release schedule having almost completely dried up, it's an interesting comment for Microsoft to make at the point when every publisher and their dog are busy leaking Xbox 2 software information.